“Reasonable care is an explicit responsibility on the part of the importer.”

Import Compliance has been a hot topic for U.S. Customs, and for importers, since 1993 when Congress passed the Customs Modernization and Informed Compliance Act (The Mod Act).

Determination of the relevant import controls for imported products is a key component of any import compliance program because it sets the stage as to what and how much U.S. importers can import (import prohibitions and import restrictions) and as to whether or not U.S. importers must deal with any specific product requirements or any country of origin marking requirements in importing products. It is also important in that it will safeguard U.S. importers from the imposition of monetary fines and penalties.

U.S. import controls arise from concerns related to the U.S. economy, the preservation of domestic plant and animal life, consumer health and consumer well-being. Consequently, as concern over these matters shifts, import controls will likely be subjected to change.

Penalties for Violations

Failure to comply with any of the relevant import laws and regulations can result in heavy fines ranging in the millions and other significant civil and criminal penalties, including revocation of the company’s import privileges and/or potential seizure of imported merchandise. Individuals found to be in violation of these laws and regulations can be fined or face imprisonment.

Having an Import Compliance program in place can be an effective way to prevent violations and potential penalties.

Import Prohibitions

Import restrictions limit the entry of certain products into the U.S. and are based primarily on country of origin and product type. Restrictions may be imposed by U.S. Customs, by another U.S. agency which has regulatory authority over a particular product, or by a State government into which the goods will be transported or are consigned. Restrictions include:

  • Import Quotas: Import quotas control the amount or volume of various commodities that can be imported into the United States during a specified period of time. United States import quotas may be divided into two main types: absolute and tariff-rate. Absolute quotas usually apply to textiles and strictly limit the quantity of goods that may enter the commerce of the United States during a specific period. Currently there are no commodities subject to absolute quota restrictions. Tariff-rate quotas permit a specified quantity of imported merchandise to be entered at a reduced rate of duty during the quota period. Once a quota has been reached, goods may still be entered, but at a higher rate of duty.
  • Import permits, license, visas, certificates: CBP does not require an importer to have a license or permit, but other agencies may require a permit, license, or other certification, depending on the commodity being imported. CBP acts in an administrative capacity for these other agencies.

    Specific details, permits/declarations or statements are required for importation of a number of commodities including civil aircraft parts, radio frequency devices and assemblies, food, plants, livestock, firearms, radiation-producing products and materials, biological materials, drugs and medical devices, toxic substances, audio/video cassettes and tapes, textiles, footwear, alcoholic beverages, artwork, antiques, watches, marked/mutilated samples,

    Some commodities are eligible for preferential treatment (reduced duty) when the appropriate statement or declaration is provided.

  • labeling and/or marking requirements: All goods of foreign origin must be legibly, indelibly and permanently marked with the English name of the country of origin unless they meet the exception requirements in the regulations. (The requirement generally applies to individual units.) When marking is not feasible, such as when the article is too small or marking would in some way damage the merchandise, then the packaging or container that will reach the ultimate consumer must be marked. Specific requirements on country or origin marking methods and requirements are available in Title 19, Part 134 of the Code of Federal Regulation (19CFR134). Certain goods (partial list below) have special packing or marking requirements set by U.S. Customs or by an agency with regulatory control of the goods. Note that Section 43 of the Lanham Act (U.S. Trademark Act) refuses entry to goods marked or labeled in contravention of the provisions of the act.
  • Inspection

  • Clearance for certain goods being allowed only at certain designated ports

Goods which do not meet restrictions are generally refused entry at the U.S. border.

Country of origin requirements

Trade group memberships

Other government agencies

Import record-keeping

If a record keeper fails to produce an import record upon lawful demand by Customs, the consequences can be severe. If the failure is the result of a willful failure, Customs may assess an administrative penalty for each release of merchandise, not to exceed $100,000, or an amount equal to 75% of the appraised value of the merchandise, whichever is less. Alternatively, if the failure is the result of a negligent failure, Customs may assess an administrative penalty for each release of merchandise, not to exceed $10,000, or an amount equal to 40% of the appraised value of the merchandise, whichever is less.


For more information

For more information, call toll-free 1-877-328-7866 (Intl: 716-881-2590) and talk to one of our foreign trade compliance consultants. Or send an .

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